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A remarkable learning opportunity enables DBS students to study marketing in China.

By taking their studies to China on a 14-day study and cultural tour, Deakin Business School (DBS) students have been able to fast track their learning and condense a core unit of work into a two-week intensive.

The 17 undergraduate students, who are all completing a marketing major within a variety of business degrees, have recently returned from DBS’s Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) Brand Management study program which provided them with on-campus and on-site industry learning.

Located in Chengdu, SWUFE is one of Deakin’s key university partners in China. It is ranked in the country’s top 75 national universities and its researching and teaching strengths are in applied economics, finance, theoretical economics and management. 

The Faculty of Business and Law’s International Manager Tori Ellenberger and DBS lecturer Dr Yolande Vandenberg travelled with the students to China where Dr Vandenberg co-taught the Brand Management unit with one of SWUFE’s marketing lecturers.

Dr Vandenberg says that while the marketing unit is offered on-campus at Deakin, studying it overseas offers students the unique opportunity to apply their learning from the context of China.

‘An aspect of the unit is that students need to complete a comparison study of a brand in China and Australia. This demonstrates different cultural elements which must be considered and the need to customise a product and marketing to the country it is being sold in. Our students visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to conduct a brand audit … within the study of marketing brand management is integral component to a business’s success or failure.’

SWUFE student ambassadors assisted DBS students with language, cultural and education insights while the classes taught by SWUFE’s lecturer provided them with key insight into China’s marketing practices. 

‘She used Chinese examples that were overlayed with cultural context  and provided insight into how marketing works in China and how it differs from Australia based on government restrictions  policies – such as the single child policy – and the impact this has had on education, choosing to study abroad, marriage and families,’ says Dr Vandenberg.

To assist DBS students participating in the program, travel subsidies were offered through the Australian’s government’s New Colombo Plan which supports young Australians studying in the Indo-Pacific region.

Deakin commerce/arts student Josh Cook says the program was a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to explore a different country, make new friends and stockpile cross-cultural experiences toward his marketing major.

‘I also liked the idea of completing an entire unit’s coursework in two weeks! I’d been on Deakin international study programs before so it didn’t take much to convince me to participate,’ he says.

One of the highlights for Josh was the SWUFE Global Academy launch.

‘SWUFE really showed they cared about their international partnerships. It was clear they put lots of time, effort and money into the event … it made us all feel welcomed and valued. The group I toured with was also fantastic. By day four, everyone was participating in class, going out for dinners, and exploring Chengdu together.’

Completing his third Deakin international study tour, Josh says he returned to Australia with a new perspective of China.

‘Each time I’ve learned that any preconceived ideas of a country are almost instantly dissolved. I appreciate the differences and I really admire China as a nation and what it has accomplished. China wants to understand the world, and for the world to understand China. The SWUFE program was just one way of achieving that mutual understanding.’

Commerce/laws student Emma Dixon had participated in the prestigious Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna in Hong Kong and Vienna earlier this year and says she was looking for other international experience to enhance her studies. 

‘I was very excited when I discovered the SWUFE program because it also meant I could complete a compulsory unit for my marketing major in a two-week intensive. Undertaking the Brand Management unit in China provided us with a huge advantage … we were also taught by both an Australian and Chinese academic and experienced different teaching methods.’

Being able to compare brand management strategies between the two countries also provided Emma with a learning advantage as she says the marketing techniques in China are significantly different to those used in Australia. 

‘Being able to observe and experience the different strategies in a real life context, as opposed to learning them from a textbook, was invaluable. Of course Australia and China also have important commercial connections which will continue to develop. The industry and cultural insights I gained from this trip will enable me to better adapt to globalised professional roles I will hold after university.’

Dr Vandenberg says the program was an outstanding success with a high level of student interaction and interest.

‘We had many “marketing” conversations outside the formal class time. We talked about marketing while exploring Chengdu often applying theories while walking and chatting. It became an authentic extension of their learning.’

She adds that the intensive teaching also enabled the DBS students to learn more deeply.

‘They kept building on the information. It was a real highlight to have the natural teaching element in the ‘real world’ beyond a classroom. The insights and discussions enabled them to grasp concepts and context quickly and they really loved the intense teaching style.’